Spring practice No. 9: WRs get heavy work


ATHENS, Ga. -- The problem facing Georgia’s receivers this spring is not uncommon for the Bulldogs.

As was the case for much of last season, they simply don’t have much depth at wideout thanks to Malcolm Mitchell’s springtime shift to defense and injuries that keep others like Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten and Rhett McGowan out of some drills. That leaves the regulars with the wearisome task of taking more practice reps than they would prefer.

“It’s a little bit of a pain, but it’s good for us,” rising sophomore Michael Bennett said. “Good conditioning, good reps, good experience for guys like Justin [Scott-Wesley], who needs to play this year. Bottom line, he’s going to be in the rotation, so he needs to have as many reps as possible.

“So it’s good for us,” Bennett added with a grin, “but at the same time it’s not good for these legs.”

Bennett, Scott-Wesley, Tavarres King and Marlon Brown are the only healthy regulars in the rotation, mirroring the position group’s common issue last season, when Brown and Wooten struggled with injuries that forced the Bulldogs to burn Conley’s redshirt and walk-ons like McGowan and Taylor Bradberry to figure more heavily into the team’s offensive plans.

Bennett was one of the beneficiaries of that depth shortage, catching 32 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns. He said the extra practice can benefit his fellow receivers, as well, particularly Scott-Wesley, who redshirted last season.

“Guys went down last year and I had to come in and step up. It was good for me in practice because I did the same thing,” Bennett said. “Coach [Tony Ball] gave me a lot of reps and he said, ‘If one guy goes down, you’re in.’ So it’s good to have these kinds of situations where guys go down and guys have to step up because in the season that could exactly happen.”

Some other notes and observations from Tuesday’s ninth practice of the spring:

* Freshman tailback Keith Marshall did not practice. UGA reported he was out with a slight hamstring injury.

However, King singled him out after practice as one of the team’s most impressive youngsters.

“He’s smart, man. I think that goes a long way playing his position and playing in this league,” King said. “If you’re smart and you can pick up on the playbook and you can pick up on what defenses are trying to do, it enables you to be a great player. I think that he’ll be a very important piece of this offense.”

UGA reported that rising sophomore defensive end/linebacker Ray Drew also missed practice with an illness.

* King also complimented fellow rising senior Brown for his performance this spring.

“Somebody that gets better every camp, every spring is Marlon Brown,” King said. “The guy just gets so much better every time he steps on the football field and he wants to be the best, he wants to be the best at his craft. When I see him do things out there, it pushes me and vice versa.

“We tell each other when we’re doing something wrong or something right. He’s really come a long way as a receiver and I’m extremely proud of him. I’ve watched him grow and it’s amazing.”

Many coaches and teammates made similar statements about Brown prior to last season, but he finished with 15 catches for 234 yards -- 121 of which came in a single game against Vanderbilt -- thanks in part to the foot injury that slowed him early in the season.

King said the 6-foot-5 Brown’s mental development will help him avoid another such letdown.

“I feel like he’s a completely different person from a mental standpoint. He’s just attacking defenses. He’s not indecisive,” King said. “He’s very deliberate in what he’s going to do and he just makes a decision and goes with it. He’s such a big guy that when he makes a decision and goes with it, it’s hard for him to be stopped. I think he’s got that in his head now that he’s a big fella and he can play receiver.”

* Wooten, Conley and McGowan all practiced in green no-contact jerseys on Tuesday, as did offensive linemen Zach DeBell and Xzavier Ward and linebacker Amarlo Herrera. Linebacker Christian Robinson, who missed Saturday’s scrimmage with an injury, was back in a normal jersey.

* The Bulldogs practiced for approximately 90 minutes before lightning in the area forced them indoors to complete practice in the team’s multipurpose room. The Bulldogs will return to the practice field on Thursday afternoon.

* Among the visitors at Tuesday’s practice: former Bulldogs linebackers who are now in the NFL, Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble, as well as future NFL draft pick Ben Jones.

* Neil Callaway, the former Georgia offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, and former head coach at UAB, was also in attendance.